McCain Again Steps Away From Bush
By Juliet Eilperin
NORTH BEND, Wash. -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) continued to tout his green credentials this morning, telling reporters, "I will be a president of the United States."
For the second day in a row, McCain took pains to distance himself from President Bush on the question of climate change, saying "there's a long-standing, significant, deep disagreement between myself and the administration on this issue."
McCain argued he would press for an international climate pact in order to curb the world's greenhouse gas emissions. "I will lead, I will lead this nation and the world, and we will address climate change," he said. "America will lead, and not obstruct."
McCain's climate proposal is more modest than that of either Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) or Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.): He would cut U.S. greenhouse gases 60 percent, compared with 1990 levels, by 2050 rather than the 80 percent they've proposed, and he would give polluters free emissions credits at first, rather than make them pay through an auction, which is what Obama and Clinton favor. Still, McCain argued that voters would back his approach because it's more pragmatic.
"My proposal is doable. My proposal will ensure we will have economic growth as well as protection of the environment," he said. "People will trust my stewardship, not only because of my background and knowledge, but because of my vision for the future."
McCain also briefly commented on the Rev. John Hagee's apology to Catholic Church leaders, saying that while he did not orchestrate the apology he welcomed it. "The fact that he's made an apology is very helpful," he said. "That's the kind of reconciliation for many, many years."
While in North Bend, McCain also met with environmental and corporate leaders in the Cedar Watershed Public Education Center.
As the rain poured down outside, McCain asked a group that included an outdoor goods manufacturer, Eagle Scout and fruit grower about what policies he should adopt in order to curb climate change and protect valuable ecosystems.
None of the ideas were new: Sally Jewel, REI's president and CEO, said her business would welcome tax incentives for using solar and wind energy while Chris Bayley, the head of a market-based conservative group, urged McCain to shift federal environmental policy "from a regulatory paradigm to a land owner-based voluntary and cooperative paradigm" by giving farmers financial incentives to conserve private land.
The presumptive GOP nominee expressed a willingness to support these market-based initiatives, saying his travels around the world had convinced him global warming poses a major threat to the environment.
"I've actually traveled and seen with my own eyes, and these are the miners' canaries, the miners' canaries that tell us what's happening to the planet," he said. "Do I have some passion about it? Yes, yes, I have some passion."
For the most part, McCain and the panelists spoke about anecdotes that highlighted the ways they were working to improve the environment. Will Mentor, a high school senior and Eagle Scout who has worked on a local environmental restoration project, recalled how planting native plants in area streams inspired his fellow Boy Scouts. If policymakers don't tackle climate change, Mentor said, "it has the potential to destroy a lot of things that we as Northwesterners hold very dear to us."
The senator lauded the scout's effort, saying, "Every chance you get, plant another tree. Every chance that you get."
After the roundtable McCain took a walk amidst a steady rain, as photographers and cameramen recorded his visit of the Cedar River Watershed. Ralph Naess, the Seattle Public Utilities public and cultural programs manager, and Doug Sutherland, Washington Commissioner of Public Lands, accompanied McCain on the tour.
As McCain -- sporting jeans, a fleece, a rain jacket and sneakers -- walked over the Masonry Dam, Naess explained how city officials originally built the dam in 1915 in order to generate electricity.
"They weren't worried about drinking water; there were only 50,000 people here," Naess said.
Now the dam maintains a drinking reservoir for Seattle, Naess added, and it is a haven for wildlife such as bald eagles and osprey.
The two men discussed how global warming has shrunk the area's snowpack, which is in turn affecting the city's water supply. While the region enjoyed a big snowfall this year, Naess said, "the long term trend's downhill.
After walking the span of the dam, the group headed to the beach overlooking Chester Morris Lake. McCain and his guides, walking by scattered driftwood, walked to the edge of the lake and as the senator passed the assembled press corps, he waved.
Afterwards, McCain, Naess and Sutherland went on a brief nature walk in the woods that lasted a matter of minutes.
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